Thursday, August 11, 2011

Tully's Favorite Rice-Stuffed Tomatoes

Stuffed vegetables appear on nearly every antipasto table in Italy. These rice-filled tomatoes are a regular entry on the extensive antipasti buffet at Ristorante Il Casale on the via Flaminia outside of Rome which we had the immense pleasure of visiting on our last trip to Rome. The restaurant is cut into a rock out-cropping giving the restaurant a rustic and unassuming atmosphere as does the huge outdoor rotisserie spit with giant trays of potatoes roasting under the rotating skewered meat. The cats* roaming the property added to the ambiance and authenticity of the experience.

These particular Pomodori a Riso are a favorite of our friend and neighbor, Tully. His contention is that any dish with “stuffed” in its name is bound to be delicious and thus irresistible. He has, on occasion, been known to take leftover tomatoes home and eat them cold for breakfast!

What better way to celebrate the bounty of garden-fresh tomatoes than with this traditional Italian preparation. We recently served these at a back-to-school soiree and watched as a passel of teens mowed through a dozen or so (always a ringing endorsement) along with squash blossom frittatas, homemade sausage with peppers and onions, and grilled lamb sandwiches; not your typical post-summer cookout fare!

  • 8 firm, ripe medium tomatoes
  • ½ cup risotto rice (Arborio), uncooked 
  • 2 tablespoons Italian parsley, chopped
  • 2 tablespoon fresh basil, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil 
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Position oven rack in top third of oven, then preheat oven to 400°F. Pull stems off tomato tops. Do not core! Turn the tomato over and then trim about 3/4" from the bottom of each tomato and set ends aside.

Working over a medium bowl, use a small spoon or melon-baller to carefully scoop out inner pulp without puncturing the side walls of the tomatoes. Reserve scooped-out tomato pulp.

Arrange scooped-out tomatoes open end up in a medium baking dish. Pass tomato pulp through a food mill or pulse in the bowl of a food processor to a chunky puree, and then transfer back into a mixing bowl adding rice, parsley, basil, garlic, and olive oil, and season generously with salt and pepper. Mix well.

Spoon rice filling into prepared tomatoes (It’s Okay if there is a little filling left over.) Place one of the reserved tomato ends loosely on top of each stuffed tomato to look like a little hat. Drizzle a little more olive oil (we used oregano-infused) over the tomatoes and bake until rice is swollen and tender and tomatoes are soft and well browned. This will take about 50 or so minutes. Remove from oven and set aside to let cool before serving. The rice retains the heat for quite some time and are quite tasty even at room temperature. Or as Tully likes them, cold with a cup of hot coffee.

*In our experience, we have found that the best restaurants in Italy always have cats!



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